It was a moment years in the making for the family, loved ones and colleagues of slain Border Patrol agent Javier Vega, Jr. The Sarita Checkpoint, where he served most of his six-year career with Border Patrol, was renamed in his honor during a ceremony Wednesday.
On August 3, 2014, Vega was with his family fishing near Raymondville when two illegal immigrants held them at gunpoint. Vega, who’s a Marine Corps veteran, pulled out his weapon and exchanged gunfire. He was shot in the chest and died on the way to the hospital.
Texas lawmakers wrote letters to Border Patrol in support of reclassifying Vega’s death as a line of duty death. The agency officially made the move in 2016. The following year, President Trump signed a bill to rename the Sarita checkpoint in the agent’s honor.
Vega’s family was joined by Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas and other dignitaries to debut the Javier Vega Jr. Border Patrol checkpoint for the first time. Vega’s K9, Goldie, was also there to mark the special occasion.
“Harvey, as many of his fellow K9 handlers here today can attest, spent the overwhelming of his career here doing what he loved,” said close friend Paul Perez, who’s also vice president of the National Border Patrol Council.
That love was public service. Marie Vega said that developed in her son at a young age, and it’s what instinctively kicked in the day he was tragically killed.
Fighting through tears, Marie Vega said at the ceremony, “That day, he did what his heart told him to do, the very same thing he took that oath for — the oath to defend and protect.”
Sen. Cornyn drafted the legislation to rename the checkpoint in agent Vega’s honor, and Sen. Cruz lent his support to get the bill passed. They both hope the gesture will leave a lasting legacy.
“I hope we can remind all Texans and all Americans of his dedication to his community, to family, and what it means to be a public servant,” Sen. Cornyn said.
Sen. Cruz added, “That memory will last. it will last a year from now. It will last a decade from now. It will last a century from now.”
Through their grief, agent Vega’s wife and family say the support for them, especially from Border Patrol, helps keep them going.
“My boys lost their father. I lost my best friend but we gained a family. and I’m forever thankful,” said Andrea Brown Vega, agent Vega’s widow.
“It will be a reminder (of him) for everyone who drives by,” Marie Vega said of her son’s legacy.
Although President Trump signed the bill the rename the checkpoint in Novemer 2017, Marie Vega said the ceremony took so long because the parties involved didn’t want anything to jeopardize the trials of the men arrested for Javier Vega Jr.’s murder.
The two illegal immigrants have been tried and convicted. Last June, the shooter Gustavo Tijerina Sandoval was sentenced to death for murder. He was also given a life sentence for shooting Vega’s father. The other defendant Ismael Hernandez Vallego pleaded guilty to murder and attempted capital murder in January. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.